Acton Institute Powerblog

The Moral Case for Conservatism

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Lee Habeeb and Mike Leven explain why it’s essential to make the moral case for conservatism:

If there is a single reason why conservatives continue to lose the battle of ideas, it’s because we don’t make the moral case for freedom and free markets. Our political class instead makes the economic case for our philosophy. Our smart guys are so impressed with their own intelligence, they think we can win the debate using numbers and data, charts and graphs, and political tactics and strategy.

It’s the Left’s secret advantage. They create the feeling that they care more about the average American because they make the moral case for their philosophy.

[. . .]

As the state takes more of our money, there is less for us to give to churches, synagogues, and mosques who take care of the weakest among us. And not just with a check, but with a caring human being connected to that material support.We can point to 20th-century Europe’s experience. As the state grew, the churches there had less influence and eventually emptied.

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Joe Carter Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).


  • RogerMcKinney

    The moral argument works no better than the charts and economic arguments because the majority of people on the left don’t care about morality except when it suits their ideology. The ragged cloth of morality the left puts on is merely a cover for envy and covetousness. Some on the left covet what the wealthy have and want the wealthy to give the middle and lower classes most of their wealth through government programs like education, Medicare and social security. Others envy the wealthy and just want to see them punished for their success.

    The left don’t even care about the poor as they claim. If they did, they would promote the only institutions that have proven successful in lifting people out of poverty – free markets. And the left admires poor countries that are socialist, like Cuba and Venezuela.

  • There are two basic moralities:
    The end justifies the means, or (else)
    The means justifies the end.

    Market capitalism is based on free people making peaceful, voluntary agreements with other free people in order to have win-win deals. This is why Christian capitalist countries are so much richer — lots of win-win deals.
    Using peaceful means.

    Gov’t uses non-peaceful force. Everything the gov’t does is, basically, a win-lose issue.
    Even justice, where good gov’t makes the bad criminals lose, justice means punishing the guilty or making the guilty pay.

    Those who advocate gov’t both advocate force instead of peace, and advocate for a solution that, as compared to peaceful market actions, has worse outcomes.

    Whereas the morality of the Democrats (who are leftist, but it says D on the ballot) is based on “good intentions”, the real moral argument should be based on the means. With peaceful cooperation, perhaps sometimes slower, as the alternative to force based gov’t.

    But note that for much of what gov’t does, peaceful cooperation is faster than politicized gov’t action — see Trump building an ice rink in less than year after 6 years of failed NYC gov’t.